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Published: April 8th 2019
Hello folks, and thanks for checking back in with us! Sorry it's been a while since our last blog post from Cartagena. We left about six weeks ago, and I think I'm just now fully recovered from the heat. Fi, being much more adventurous than me, enjoyed her self-inflicted marches through the old town there, while I was quite content soaking up the hotel's wifi and air conditioning until we finally flew to Bogotá (after leaving Tortuga at the port in Cartagena for shipment to Galveston, Texas). In Bogotá we enjoyed three days exploring Colombia's capital city, and I enjoyed the much cooler temperatures. Bogotá is a fascinating city, with a rich history that begins, at least as far as I learned, with the pre-Incan natives who adorned their communities and themselves in the plentiful gold that was eventually mined or pilfered out of the country with Spanish colonization. One must-see tourist stop is the Gold Museum (Museo de Oro) in the city center. One thing that stood out the most was, or at least appeared to be, the pretty lax security in a six-storey museum filled to the rafters with gold artifacts. Although everything was behind protective glass, I've seen
greater armed security presence at a Colombian grocery store. In fact, the only time I saw an armed police officer standing vigil was with a group of 8-year old school kids who were obviously on an educational trip. I guess those kids can be trouble.
After a few days in Bogotá, we flew from there to Houston, finally leaving South America - for now. Our stay in Houston was pretty forgettable, but we were fortunate enough to quickly retrieve Tortuga from the port in Galveston and begin our trek westward to San Diego to collect our mountain bikes, visit friends, and tend to some other matters. I may have mentioned this before: Houston may not be Hell, but you can see it from there. That's all I'll say about that, other than that we were happy to be on our way. In order to make it to San Diego in time for a medical appointment that Fi had arranged, we had to cover about 1600 miles (2600 kms) in 3 days. Our aging but faithful truck, Blue Jay, performed spectacularly, getting us and Tortuga to San Diego on time, where we spent a few days staying with our good
friends Dennis and his long-suffering wife, Xu. We enjoyed a fun evening at their house one weekend along with Cheryl, another good friend of Fi's from our San Diego days. Once the three girls were in the same room together, cackling away, Dennis and I knew it wouldn't be long until we became the targets of ridicule for whatever idiosyncrasies either of us may have. Rather than stick together though, Dennis - the backstabbing jackal that he is - enlisted in their estrogen-fueled laughter, egging them on to make fun of me in order to spare himself any unwanted scrutiny and semi-good-natured ribbing. And that's how the evening went. Like SCUBA divers say, when you and your buddy are suddenly being circled by sharks, you don't have to outswim the sharks, you just have to outswim your buddy. For dinner, Xu steamed a huge fish, head to tail, serving it on a big platter with all sorts of trimmings. It was pretty tasty. When we finished with it and were all starting to sit back and loosen our belts, she brought another one out of the pan; this one might even have been bigger. The first one was delicious, so
we each began loading our plates with further helpings, although if truth be told, our stomachs were pretty well stretched out by this point. After the second whole fish was polished off with only a skeleton remaining on the platter, Fi and I nervously watched as she returned to the kitchen. Our fears were realized when, like a chapter form the Gospels, she pulled out a THIRD FULL-SIZED fish from the pan and served it. Although each one was delicious, by this point I was already having fish sweats. I tentatively forked a few heaps onto my plate and, with shaking hand and forced smile, I lifted a few fork fulls to my mouth before crying uncle. I did get some 'street cred' when I ate one of the fish eyeballs and a bit of the tail fin (fish eye tastes like a hard boiled egg infused with wallpaper paste, in case you were wondering). How would I describe the eyeball experience? "Fish eyeball: check. No need to do that again." It was a great dinner, but I think I'm set on eating fish for a while.
We also had a chance to see my Coast Guard buddy, Scott,
as well as meet up with our old neighbors and friends, Steve, Mel and Mary-Ellen. We were also able to visit Fi's dear friend and former co-worker, Anna and her daughter Catherine. One day we had a chance encounter with my old Coast Guard buddy Doug, and his wife Lisa, whom we hadn't seen for many years and who just happened to be passing through the same campground where we were staying in the city center. It was great to see them; it's hard to believe the guy in the photo used to have a regulation military haircut. We tried to find them out in the Anza Borrego desert the following week, but weren't able to. Oh well, hopefully our paths will cross again someday. In addition to seeing old friends, we met some great new folks at that campground: Charlie and Melissa, adventurous folks from Idaho (or was it Wyoming, or Montana? - sorry, Charlie!) whom we introduced to our favorite Indian buffet restaurant in Hillcrest during our San Diego sojourn.
From San Diego we headed back east, albeit at a much slower and more relaxed pace. Our timing in the southwestern U.S. aligned perfectly with two spectacular
events: (1) the desert wildflower "superbloom"; and (2) the Great Spring Recreational Vehicle (RV) Migration. The RV migration is an annual event where vehicles big enough to affect tides or land a helicopter on, migrate en masse from their winter pastures to summer grazing lands. Like African water buffalo lumbering across the Serengeti, these heavyweights can be seen roaming and roaring across the desert interstate highways in their constant search for diesel fuel to quench their nearly insatiable hydrocarbon thirst. During our brief stay in Phoenix, we found ourselves parked amidst several of these mammoths, treated to a chorus of diesel/propane generators from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 pm most days (and nights). On a positive note, we were able to meet up with our cycling friends Kyle and Jen, an adventurous (and perhaps clinically insane) couple that we met in Ecuador last year, who left well-paying, respectable professions to live on their bicycles last June; they're currently en route to Sacramento via Los Angeles by bike. It was a lot of fun connecting with them at camp and enjoying an evening camp fire, sans "Generator Wars", as the herd of monster RVs had already lumbered off by then.
Now for the "superbloom", or "Bloomageddon" as Borrego Springs desert denizens refer to it. This was really cool. Due to a "perfect storm" of years-long drought and recent heavy rains, the desert wildflowers were in full bloom in such a way that only occurs once in a decade or more. In Southern California's Anza Borrego desert, the normally sand-colored landscape was blanketed in flowers of vibrant shades of yellow, blue, purple, pink, red, and green. We took a bunch of awful photos with our piece-of-junk phone camera, but here's a link to some photos much better than ours: https://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/ca_abdsp.html
. Following California and Phoenix, we meandered down to Gilbert Ray Campground, near Saguaro National Park in Tucson for a much anticipated meet-up with my parents and sister. My parents had travelled out in their RV as part of a 2-month trip, and my sister had flown out for vacation. The wildflowers were still in bloom, which was a real treat as this was my sister's first trip to the desert, which she seems to have enjoyed. We had a great time together and look forward to seeing them again in just a few weeks when we will land on their
doorstep as the Tortuga Tour reaches its end. Our plan is to put Tortuga to bed in Greenville, South Carolina, where my parents have generously offered to let us store it in their RV storage unit, which is large enough to store a 737. Well, maybe it's not that big... but it's pretty big (thanks Mom & Dad/Pops!). The only downer on the week together was all my fault, as I had fallen off my bike a week before, doing stupid stunts that a nearly 50-year-old man has no business doing, banging myself up badly enough that I was hobbling around like an invalid all week, unable to go on any hikes or bike rides. Otherwise, we really enjoyed our mini-reunion together.
We're currently in Payson, Arizona, enroute to the east coast, via Zion National Park and Pagosa Springs, Colorado (our former home). We'll meet up with some friends along the way and eventually bring this trip that started in November 2017 to an end. We have mixed emotions about this as we're both looking forward to transitioning into something more permanent that includes sleeping somewhere that isn't on wheels, but have really enjoyed all - well,
nearly all - of the adventures and misadventures to date. And of course we still have a 6-week trip to England and a 3-month bike ride in eastern Canada to look forward to this summer! Thanks for checking in on us. We hope you enjoy our poor-quality photos. In fairness, even if I had a high-quality camera, any photo I might take would still suck. Kind of like giving a monkey an iPhone.
~ Ken and Fi
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